Ocular injuries such as minor surface scratches definitely require evaluation and treatment by an eye doctor, but may only need simple monitoring afterwards to make sure complications such as eye infections don’t occur. More serious injuries, such as deep puncture wounds from accidents, could require immediate treatment or surgery to prevent permanent eye damage resulting in vision loss.
Scratched Eye (Corneal Abrasion)
Common causes of abrasions to the eye’s surface ( known as corneal abrasions) include getting poked in the eye or rubbing the eye when a foreign body is present (such as dust or sand). Corneal abrasions are very uncomfortable and cause severe sensitivity to light and/or pain. Scratches also can make your eye susceptible to infection from bacteria or a fungus. Certain types of bacteria and fungi can enter the eye through a scratch and cause serious harm in as little as 24 hours. This is especially true if the object that scratched your eye is dirty or contaminated.
If you have a scratched eye, do NOT rub or patch your eye. Bacteria like dark, warm places to grow, and a patch could provide an ideal environment. Simply keep the eye closed, or loosely tape a paper cup or eye shield over it, and see your doctor as soon as possible to evaluate the eye injury.
Penetrating or Foreign Objects in the Eye
If a foreign object such as metal penetrates your eye, visit your eye doctor right away, or the emergency room if an eye doctor is unavailable. You could cause even more injury to your eye if you attempt to remove the object yourself or if you rub your eye. Your eye also may have corneal foreign bodies that are small, sharp pieces of a substance (usually metal) that have become embedded in the eye’s surface (cornea), but have not penetrated into the interior of the eye. Metal foreign bodies can quickly form a rust ring and a significant scar. Your eye doctor should remove these foreign bodies as soon as possible.
Caustic Foreign Substance in the Eye (Chemical Burn)
Getting unexpectedly splashed or sprayed in the eye by substances other than clean, harmless water can be scary. Some substances burn or sting but are fairly harmless in the long run, while others can cause serious injury. The basic makeup of the chemical involved can make a lot of difference, such as:
• Acid. As a general rule, acids can cause considerable redness and burning but can be washed out fairly easily.
• Alkali. Substances or chemicals that are basic (alkali) are much more serious but may not seem so because they don’t cause as much immediate eye pain or redness as acids. Some examples of alkali substances are household cleaners and chalk dust.
Chemical exposures and burns are usually caused by a splash of liquid getting in your eye. Rubbing your eyes and transferring a chemical from your hands to your eyes or by getting sprayed in the eye by hair spray or other aerosols are other ways of ocular chemical exposure.
If you’re splashed in the eye, rinse your eyes with barely warm tap water for about 15 minutes. Then call/visit your eye doctor or an emergency room/urgent care center to see what is recommended for your eye injury.
Depending on the substance, the effects of chemical exposures causing eye injuries can range from minor irritation to serious eye damage.